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Summary

At Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Technology Summit in December 2017, the vendor announced a new step in the smartphone evolution of the business world: the “always connected PC,” an innovative concept that brings the best features of the smartphone to the PC. The device is powered by the newly launched Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform system-on-chip (SoC), which brings with it some impressive functionality. Key elements of Qualcomm’s new strategy include a consumer-centric focus, significant technological improvements, partnership developments, and a focus on China as a key global player in the ecosystem.

The PC is evolving toward smartphone functionality

Smartphones have been the most significant consumer-electronic disruptors in modern life, surpassing PCs as the main internet access device and changing the history of the internet, communications, photography, watches, GPS, radio, video, gaming, payments, and many other industries. For years, people have marveled at the fact that having a smartphone essentially means having a PC in the palm of your hand, but now Qualcomm, Microsoft, and several PC manufacturer partners have turned the game around by developing a PC that meets consumer expectations for smartphone performance: the “always connected PC,” or AC-PC.

AC-PC is a term coined by Microsoft and Qualcomm to essentially denote a Windows PC using the same SoC that high-end smartphones use – at the time referring to the Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform – instead of an x86 processor from AMD or Intel. The main advantages are connectivity anywhere, with integrated support for LTE (via nano SIMs or eSIMs) and Wi-Fi; battery life of more than a day, even for intensive users; instant-on, with no reboot time needed; innovative detachable-screen designs; and the facility of Windows 10 for corporate users.

The first models were presented by Asus for $600 and $800, prices that some participants at the summit considered expensive when compared to that of a standard PC, but interesting when compared to that of a high-end smartphone. The market is likely to see the introduction of new segments and lower prices soon, after the new device category is established. In Ovum’s view, it is a particularly attractive product for enterprise users, though the platform is positioned for consumers as well.

At the summit, Qualcomm was joined by several partners, including Microsoft, Asus, HP, Sprint, AMD, Samsung, Lenovo, and, notably, Chinese internet giants Xiaomi and Baidu. The presentation introducing the Snapdragon 845 chipset emphasized its capabilities in immersive experience, AI, performance, connectivity, and security. Partnerships have historically been important for Qualcomm and are becoming even more so with the rise of the digital economy, particularly in regard to the large Chinese ecosystem, which could be key to helping Qualcomm maintain its leadership in mobile SoC while developing its growing IoT, networking, and automotive segments.

Appendix

Further reading

“Building blocks for 5G are coming closer together,” GLB007-000006 (November 2017)

Smartphone Connections Forecast: 2017–22, TE0009-001642 (May 2017)

Author

Sonia Agnese, Senior Analyst, Latin America

sonia.agnese@ovum.com

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